Survey: 93% of Pittsburgh hospital workers plan to quit their profession

The pandemic has been extremely hard on healthcare workers, with hospitals dealing with record numbers of patients over the past two years. Many workers reported burnout, long hours and a sense of hopelessness.

A new survey researchers from the University of Pittsburgh confirm these reports. So much so that among the thousands of employees of the Pittsburgh hospital surveyed, 93% of them are thinking of leaving the profession.

Jeffrey Shook is an associate professor at Pitt and author of the Pittsburgh Hospital Worker Survey. The survey had 2,253 participants, who represented hospital workers (excluding doctors) who had worked at one or more of Pittsburgh’s 11 hospitals in 2021.

Shook said that while most hospital workers have considered quitting their jobs, a large majority say the work is meaningful and say they also want to stay on to care for patients.

“A lot of people really think about quitting their jobs,” Shook said. “But they’re also very committed to their patients and they say they stay because of their patients.”

Nine out of 10 workers said their work was meaningful and had moderate to high compassion satisfaction, a term that indicates how satisfied people feel when helping others with their work, the report found.

Of the 129 hospital workers who said they left for researchers, 73% said lack of staff was the reason for leaving. The majority of workers who left also reported that the mental and emotional demands were too high and their pay was too low.

One in three workers said they had received threats of violence from patients and/or family members.

Of those surveyed, 84% were women and 87% of workers were white. The workers surveyed were highly educated and 63% were nurses, while 37% worked in various types of jobs, including food service, janitorial and janitorial services, and nursing assistants. The average wage of workers surveyed was around $30 an hour, with 19% reporting earning less than $20 an hour.

Shook said workers surveyed consistently said they didn’t have much of a voice in workplace decisions and indicated they wanted that to change.

Kathleen Jae is a registered nurse at Allegheny Health Network’s West Penn Hospital in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. She worked for 10 years on the hospital’s post-surgery floor and said staff regularly return there every 12 to 15 months.

Jae said there were three nurses and no helpers for 24 postoperative patients. She said understaffing is pushing workers to leave and these staffing levels are unacceptable.

“We are short of nurses and essential support,” Jae said. “We need to get back to a bottom line of excellence in health care, not just profit.”

The report says 87% of hospital workers report moderate or high levels of burnout, and 73% said they work overtime, and these work 11 hours a day on average.

When asked how best to support hospital workers, 90% said workers’ salaries should be increased. Workers also said hospitals should offer more benefits, such as free parking and cheaper or free health insurance for workers.

According to the survey, 62% of hospital workers say they live paycheck to paycheck and 28% say they are unable to afford essential expenses. And 34% said they have medical debt they cannot repay.

Although 90% of hospital workers say their hospitals are understaffed, workers have not asked for additional staff to support themselves, instead focusing most of their solutions on better wages and benefits.

Sara Goodkind, an associate professor of social work at Pitt and a member of the survey’s research team, said she thinks the reason workers have focused on how best to support workers is to increase their pay because they know that increasing pay will help retain workers, which will solve understaffing issues.

Shook said the researchers will share these findings with local interested parties, including hospitals, politicians and local leaders, in hopes of encouraging solutions to better support area hospital workers.

Ryan Deto is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Ryan by email at rdeto@triblive.com or via Twitter .